By SUSAN EDELMAN
September 11, 2008
At least 664 World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers have died since 9/11 - including 193 city cops, firefighters and medics, a state researcher says.
A review of 224 death certificates so far has found 168 died of illnesses, including 94 from cancer, according to the state Health Department's WTC Responder Fatalities Investigation. Researchers have not yet analyzed whether the deaths are linked to Ground Zero.
Also yesterday, the city Health Department reported that up to 70,000 people have developed post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the terror strikes.
By ALEX SUNDBY, Post Wire Services
September 9, 2008
A company run by a former top Bush appointee is months behind on fulfilling an $11 million contract to provide medical care to 9/11 responders and recovery workers who live far from the city, two Manhattan Congress members charged yesterday.
In June, a Wisconsin-based firm, Logistics Health, Inc. (LHI), took over responsibility for the treatment of health ailments suffered by 9/11 workers who live outside the tristate area.
The company was supposed to get in touch with patients and begin providing care in July, but some of them haven't been contacted yet, said Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney.
Nadler said the company's "attitude is obviously that first responders did their job and now they can sink into the ocean."
The Manhattan Democrats blasted Tommy Thompson, the former Health and Human Services secretary, who is now president of LHI.
"This is a national disgrace," Maloney said.
Efforts to reach Thompson or LHI were unsuccessful.
Toxic Legacy: the fight for MEDICAL CARE
Fire chief Jack Corcoran knew something was wrong. To test himself, he put on all hundred pounds of his gear and started walking up stairs. "I walked all the way up but I realized when I reached the 20th floor, although I had made it, if there was a fire to fight up there, I don't know how effective I would be. So I told Dr. Kelly that and she sent me for tests. And the rest is history. I didn't pass." His thirty year career as a firefighter was over. "I thought it was the end of the world. What am I going to do now? It's all I know."
Bill Dahl is one of the six hundred firefighters and EMS workers who have been forced to retire. In the year after 9/11, fire department responders lost the equivalent of twelve years of lung capacity. For some it's even worse. Forty-two year old Dahl has the lungs of a sixty year old and he has another common 9/11 affliction: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. "Some of those memories are very vivid, very painful. And unfortunately they come with other things, like sights. Some of the sights come with smells and tastes. And the nightmares come. And you wake up and you're having a nightmare and you find you're sick. And more than once I've wound up in the bathroom in the middle of the night sick to my stomach over a nightmare or something that I remember from Ground Zero."
Unable to work, often without health insurance, the Ground Zero workers needed help. The cost of their care alone would require tens of millions of dollars. But many say that, as sick as they were, they were on their own. No one from New York City to the state to the federal government seemed prepared to accept that their work at Ground Zero had made them ill. Lawyer Suzanne Mattei says, "The health issues are not supposed to exist. These sick people are not supposed to exist. The more they acknowledge the existence of sick people, the more they acknowledge that there was a problem, that it wasn't safe."
Five years after 9/11, insurance companies are still fighting workers compensation claims filed by Ground Zero workers. Dr. Stephen Levin says, "We thought that after September 11, the cases that would be filed among those rescue and recovery workers would be handled with some greater generosity of spirit. It turned out to be unfounded optimism. "The city has a standard policy right now that if you claim anything 9/11 related they deny it automatically," says Bill Dahl. The city will not discuss how it handles compensation cases, but Bill Dahl thinks his medical expenses from 9/11 which cost over a thousand dollar a month should be covered by workers compensation. While the fire department thinks Dahl is sick enough from his service at Ground Zero to get a full disability pension, the City Law Department doesn't. "The latest is our doctors say there's nothing wrong with you. Hello. I got seven of my own doctors not including the three doctors from the employee retirement system that have said I am disabled from 9/11. Let alone there's nothing wrong with me, I'm disabled from 9/11."
About 15,000 Ground Zero workers are now suffering from health problems.
Ground Zero workers are having to fight for funds for their medical care even from the government that once embraced them. "Politicians would come down to Gound Zero, put their arms around the shoulders of these people and have their pictures taken, talking about how heroic they were. But when the time came to provide resources, to make sure that this group of heroes was going to be evaluated clinically for the problems they developed, it was a big fight. When the time came to try to get treatment resources, there was tremendous resistance on the part of Congress and the administration made no efforts to make sure that treatment was provided even though many of these people were uninsured," says Dr. Stephen Levin.
The Bush administration initially pledged $175 million to help pay compensation claims, then took back $125 million of it when it wasn't spent quickly enough. Sick workers like Ron Vega had to go to Washington to beg for help. "One day coming back from that site, you can't just go back to your regular job. You can't think of anything. You're frozen, your mind is still not working yet. So we had to be proactive, we had to beg people to send therapists and counselors to our office sites." Senator Hillary Clinton is one of the leaders in the fight to get government for the sick workers. "I meet them all the time, people who come up to me and say, Senator, I had to leave the police department, the fire department, the EMT, the construction job, I can't work any more, I can't breathe any more, I have to sit up all night, I get no rest whatsoever. We owed more to those people than they were given."
After five years, the medical evidence is too overwhelming to deny. The Bush administration appointed 9/11 health coordinator John Howard, "I think it's clear that we have a problem here. It is the most significant event in our recent memory and it's becoming the most significant medical event also in terms of how do you take care of people who responded and who were affected by this disaster."
The dust cloud over Manhattan settled into people's home and offices.
In lower Manhattan, ruined buildings provide ghostly reminders of the devastation of that day. So too do questions about where the dust went, who was exposed and what the long-term health effects have been. A recent survey of 70,000 people shows residents have similar symptoms to those suffered by the rescue and recovery workers. Among them is Jim Gilroy. "(I have) diminished lung capacity. It's like you're trying to get a breath and you can't get a full breath" And he's more concerned about his daughter's future than his own health. "I'm worried about my kid. What's going to happen? I wondered if I should have wrapped up a cloth, kept it over her face. I should have taken my family and driven up State. I shouldn't have stayed ... I don't know. I just wonder how ... if it's going to manifest later in her life."
Residents have launched a class action lawsuit against the EPA. In February 2006, a federal judge refused former EPA director Christie Todd Whitman's bid for immunity saying, "No reasonable person would have thought that telling thousands of people that it was safe to return to lower Manhattan, while knowing that such return could pose long-term health risks and other dire consequences, was conduct sanctioned by our laws”. She called Whitman's actions "conscience-shocking”. Both Christie Todd Whitman and current EPA officials refused interviews for this story, but in a response to the court ruling, Whitman maintained: "Every action taken by the EPA ... was designed to provide the most comprehensive protection and the most accurate information. To suggest otherwise is inaccurate".
One of the casualties of 9/11 may be people's faith in their own government, and especially in an agency that was established to protect their health. Dr. Stephen Levin says, "In the long run, unless their credibility is rehabilitated through better behavior really leaves the public without recourse and information that it can trust to turn to in the face of disaster, whether you're talking about Avian Flu, you're talking about Anthrax concerns, or the next either man-made or natural disaster and what the consequences may be. For the EPA to lose credibility because they deliberately minimized, downplayed and distorted hazards I think is a terrible consequence above and beyond the issue of the actual immediately health consequence for people who were down there."
Ground Zero workers are silent no longer. Recently 8,000 of them launched a class action lawsuit of their own against the city and its contractors for failing to protect them against the hazardous substances. The workers claimed their first victory in the fight for government funds in December 2005 when the $125 million was restored. It included the first federal money to go toward providing treatment, but it will run out in three years. Unfortunately their diseases will not.
"When you hear that you have cancer and you have a giant mass and stage three lymphoma you know it's not good," says Ernie Vallebuona, a forty-year old detective and father of two. He recently got the diagnosis Ground Zero workers fear the most. Exposure to the type of chemicals found at the site have been linked to cancer, and increasing numbers of cases are appearing among the workers. "There's another lieutenant in my office who has lymphoma and these are serious illnesses. And there's possibly a fourth one with cancer also. So you know, what are the odds? You gotta ask yourself."
A nebulizer machine and eighteen daily medications keep Alex Sanchez alive. He has nodules on his lungs and has tested positive for TB. He's living on two hundred dollars a week from Workers Compensation for his joint problems. His claims for respiratory illness are still being disputed. "I'm thirty-nine. And I don't know how long I'm going to be here for. There's days that I just want to quit and just lay there. But I can't. I have this little person that really, really needs me. My five year old. This is my motivation, this is where I get all my strength from."
The ten months Ron Vega spent at Ground Zero have left him a sick man, but he continues to work. His once mild asthma has turned into a constant struggle for breath. "I'm analyzing how much breath and how many steps, how much breath I have to get to that position. And how much down time I'm gonna have. ... We're proud of what we did. Nothing would have stopped us and nothing's going to stop us from doing it again. There's certain things that you decide in your life what's worth it and what's not worth it. Working at Ground Zero was worth it, was worth it whatever comes."
Joe Zadroga is determined that his son's sacrifice not be forgotten.
James Zadroga is one of a half dozen workers whose deaths have been linked to their service after 9/11. Their families are determined that their sacrifice will not be forgotten. "Jimmy worked for thirteen years with the New York City Police Department. On 9/11, he arrived home. He told his wife, who was seven months pregnant with their child, that he had to return to work. James said to me many times that was one of the hardest things he could ever do. He would drive down the driveway with his wife that was seven months pregnant, kneeling and crying for him to stay home. But he told her it was his job and he had to go, and he could never live with himself if he didn't," says his father Joe Zadroga.
Firefighter Bill Dahl says George Bush has not delivered on his pledge to take care of the rescue workers, "My words to the President, give George Howard's badge (note: police officer George Howard died on 9/11) back to his mother because you don't deserve to carry that thing. I knew George, I trained with George. You don't deserve to carry his badge. You don't deserve to have the title of civil servant if you're not going to make good on your words. Like I said actions speak louder than words. What they're doing to us is not right, it isn't."
The administration now acknowledges that people are getting sick and is providing some money for treatment but it will run out in 2009 and for many it is too little, too late. And more are being diagnosed with illnesses everyday. If these heroes are abandoned who will answer the call of service to their country when the next disaster strikes?
9/11 CANCER COPS
By SUSAN EDELMAN
May 31, 2007
A group of 9/11 responders has contracted blood cancers at an unusually young age, and top doctors suspect the disease was triggered by an unprecedented "synergistic mix" of toxins at the World Trade Center site.
The WTC Medical Monitoring Program is now studying a group of Ground Zero workers, including cops, construction workers and volunteers, suffering from cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
"The kind of thing that worries us is that we have a handful of cases of multiple myeloma in very young individuals . . . a condition that almost always presents late in life," said Dr. Robin Herbert, co-director of the program at Mount Sinai Hospital.
"That's the kind of odd, unusual and troubling finding that we're seeing already," she says in an interview with the New England Journal of Medicine, which comes out today.
The WTC monitoring program has examined more than 20,000 workers, but so far has focused on respiratory ailments.
The mounting cancers, Herbert said, represent a "third wave" of sickness stemming from Ground Zero exposure. First came immediate breathing problems, then chronic lung diseases.
"We're worried about a third wave, which is the possibility of cancer down the road," she said.
The Post has published several reports on the growing number of 9/11 responders with cancer.
Doctors say a comparison of cancer rates in 9/11 workers with normal rates in the same age groups could prove whether WTC dust and smoke caused an increase.
Attorney David Worby, who filed a class-action suit for 9/11 workers in 2004, said yesterday about 105 of his 10,000 clients have gotten blood cancers, one as young as 30. Most range in age from 35 to 45, he said.
Several have died, including a carpenter and two NYPD cops.
Worby has long argued that a "synergistic effect" - exposure to multiple toxins - weakened the immune system and accelerated the cancer process.
He also explains the early onset of cancer in firefighters, cops and construction workers as a result of "years of prior toxic exposure" in their jobs.
"The argument that these diseases don't happen so fast does not take into account those pre-dispositions," he said. "They've been using the wrong math to calculate the latency periods."
For the first time publicly, Herbert said WTC doctors are "worried about the possibility of synergistic effect."
She said 9/11 workers were exposed to a mix of cancer-causing agents plus an "unbelievable range of other chemicals."
"One of the things that surprised me, and many of my colleagues, is how often we're seeing the so-called zebras, the conditions that we never actually saw in our lives before," Herbert said.